Sacto 9-1-1
December 18, 2012
Former member of mayor's staff arrested, accused of theft of public funds

The former council operations manager for the Sacramento mayor's office has been arrested, accused of felony offenses including the misappropriation and grand theft of public funds.

Belisa Serna-Mayorga, 40 (1).jpg

Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully today announced that an arrest warrant was issued for Lisa Serna Mayorga. She was arrested by Sacramento police detectives and booked into Sacramento County Jail with bail set at $50,000. She was released late Tuesday.

"As I said when this issue came to light last summer, I am saddened by this news," Johnson said in a written statement. "The city moved swiftly to investigate and also conducted an audit of credit card use citywide. As charges have been filed, it would be inappropriate for me or my office to comment on any of the details. As the judicial process takes its course, our thoughts are with her family."

Serna Mayorga is the daughter of the late Mayor Joe Serna and is the sister of Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna.

"I loved my sister before this incident, I love her now, and I will continue to do so as she deals with this," he said in a statement issued after her arrest.

Serna Mayorga was issued a Sacramento city bank purchasing card to be used solely for city business. It is alleged that from July 2009 to June 2012, Serna Mayorga used the card for personal items totaling more than $19,000, according to a District Attorney's Office news release. Among the illegal charges were two Disneyland trips for her and her family in December 2010 and June 2012; hotels in Bodega Bay and Monterey; clothing; makeup; restaurants grocery bills and numerous iTunes games, music, movies and entertainment applications.

In June, when an internal audit revealed that Serna Mayorga had not been submitting the required paperwork documenting her purchases, she admitted that numerous charges were personal. On June 28, she wrote two checks to the city totaling $3,029.17 for food and travel-related purchases. On July 18, she wrote another check to the city for $6,000 to cover additional personal expenses she had charged. But, officials said, stop payments were placed on all three checks before the city could submit them for deposit. Further, they said, Serna Mayorga's checking account did not have sufficient funds to cover the checks.

Investigators found that the signature of the mayor's chief of staff, Kunal Merchant, was forged on some of the accounting documents she had submitted to justify her purchases.

In addition to the misappropriation and grand theft of public funds, she is accused of forgery, and making or drawing worthless checks.

Photo provided by Sacramento Police Department

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